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Williamson v. Bureau of Motor Vehicles

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Third District, Defiance

August 28, 2017

KIMBERLY A. WILLIAMSON, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
BUREAU OF MOTOR VEHICLES, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE. STATE OF OHIO, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
KIMBERLY A. WILLIAMSON, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.

         Appeals from Defiance Municipal Court Trial Court Nos. CI1700049 and TRC 1605231

          Danny A. Hill, II for Appellant.

          Carson L. Slade for Appellee.

          OPINION

          PRESTON, P.J.

         {¶1} Defendant-appellant, Kimberly A. Williamson ("Williamson"), appeals the March 7, 2017 judgment entry of the Defiance Municipal Court in case number TRC1605231 convicting her of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs of abuse ("OVI"), a marked-lanes violation, and an expired-tags violation after her motion to suppress evidence was denied. Williamson also appeals the February 22, 2017 judgment entry of the Defiance Municipal Court in case number CI1700049 denying her appeal of an administrative license suspension ("ALS") following her OVI arrest. We affirm.

         {¶2} On November 5, 2016, at approximately 1:14 a.m., Ohio State Highway Patrol Trooper Matthew J. Gardner ("Trooper Gardner") initiated a traffic stop of the vehicle operated by Williamson after Trooper Gardner observed Williamson commit marked-lanes violations while travelling on State Route 281 in Defiance County. (Feb. 10, 2017 Tr. at 14-15). After Trooper Gardner stopped Williamson, he detected that her vehicle's registration was expired. (Id. at 15). Following Williamson's refusal to submit to chemical testing to determine her level of intoxication, she was arrested and charged with OVI in violation of R.C. 4511.19(A)(1)(a), a first-degree misdemeanor, operating a vehicle with an expired registration in violation of R.C. 4503.11, a fourth-degree misdemeanor, and the failure to drive within the marked lanes in violation of R.C. 4511.33, a minor misdemeanor. (Case No. TRC1605231 Doc. No. 1). Because Williamson refused chemical testing, her license was administratively suspended. (Case No. TRC1605231 Doc. No. 2).

         {¶3} On November 9, 2016, Williamson appeared and entered pleas of not guilty. (Case No. TRC1605231 Doc. No. 3). On January 20, 2017, Williamson filed a motion to suppress evidence arguing that Trooper Gardner lacked a reasonable, articulable suspicion to believe that she committed a marked-lanes violation. (Case No. TRC1605231 Doc. No. 17). That same day, Williamson appealed her ALS. (Case No. CI1700049 Doc. No. 1). After a hearing on February 22, 2017, the trial court denied Williamson's motion to suppress evidence. (Case No. TRC1605231 Doc. No. 20). Because the trial court denied Williamson's motion to suppress evidence after concluding that Trooper Gardner had a reasonable, articulable suspicion to believe that she committed a marked-lanes violation, the trial court denied Williamson's ALS appeal. (Case No. CI1700049 Doc. No. 4).

         {¶4} On March 7, 2017, a change-of-plea hearing was held. (Mar. 7, 2017 Tr. at 35); (Case No. TRC1605231 Doc. No. 22). Pursuant to a negotiated plea agreement, Williamson withdrew her pleas of not guilty and entered no-contest pleas to the charges. (Id.); (Id.). The trial court accepted Williamson's no-contest pleas, found her guilty, and sentenced her based on the joint-sentencing recommendation of the parties. (Id. at 40-41); (Case No. TRC1605231A Doc. No. 22); (Case No. TRC1605231B Doc. No. 1); (Case No. TRC1605231C Doc. No. 1).[1]The trial court sentenced Williamson to 180 days in jail, suspended 170 of those days, and ordered her to pay a $750 fine as to the OVI charge, to pay a $25 fine as to the marked-lanes charge, and to pay court costs as to the expired-tags charge. (Id. at 40-41); (Id.); (Id.); (Id.).

         {¶5} Williamson filed notices of appeal on March 24, 2017 in case number TRC1605231 and case number CI1700049. (Case No. TRC1605231 Doc. No. 25); (Case No. CI1700049. Doc. No. 5). Because the outcome of Williamson's ALS appeal is contingent on our disposition of Williamson's appeal in her traffic case, the cases were consolidated. Williamson raises one assignment of error for our review.

         Assignment of Error

         The Trial Court Erred in Failing to Suppress Evidence, and Denying Appellant's Administrative License Suspension Appeal, as the Standard of Reasonable Articulable Suspicion Required for the Traffic Stop Was Not Met.

         {¶6} In her assignment of error, Williamson argues that the trial court erred by denying her motion to suppress evidence. In particular, she argues that the trial court erred by concluding that Trooper Gardner had a reasonable, articulable suspicion to believe that she committed a marked-lanes violation. Because she argues that Trooper Gardner lacked a reasonable, articulable suspicion to believe that she committed a marked-lanes violation, Williamson also contends that the trial court erred by denying her ALS appeal.

         {¶7} A review of the denial of a motion to suppress involves mixed questions of law and fact. State v. Burnside, 100 Ohio St.3d 152, 2003-Ohio-5372, ¶ 8. At a suppression hearing, the trial court assumes the role of trier of fact and, as such, is in the best position to evaluate the evidence and the credibility of witnesses. Id. See also State v. Carter, 72 Ohio St.3d 545, 552 (1995). When reviewing a ruling on a motion to suppress, "an appellate court must accept the trial court's findings of fact if they are supported by competent, credible evidence." Burnside at ¶ 8, citing State v. Fanning, 1 Ohio St.3d 19 (1982). With respect to the trial court's conclusions of law, however, our standard of review is de novo, and we must independently determine whether the facts satisfy the applicable legal standard. Id., citing State v. McNamara, 124 Ohio App.3d 706 (4th Dist.1997).

         {¶8} "[I]n order to constitutionally stop a vehicle, an officer must, at a minimum, have either: (1) a reasonable suspicion, supported by specific and articulable facts, that criminal behavior has occurred, is occurring, or is imminent; or (2) a reasonable suspicion, supported by specific and articulable facts, that the vehicle should be stopped in the interests of public safety." State v. Anthony, 3d Dist. Seneca No. 13-09-26, 2009-Ohio-6717, ¶ 10, citing State v. Moore, 3d Dist. Marion No. 9-07-60, 2008-Ohio-2407, ¶ 10, citing State v. Andrews, 3d Dist. Auglaize No. 2-07-30, 2008-Ohio-625, ¶ 8, citing State v. Chatton,11 Ohio ...


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